The Shelf Is Half Full

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Archive for the category “The Flash”

Supervillain Spotlight – Captain Cold

When the subject of superheroes with great rogues galleries comes up among more casual fans of superheroes, there are usually two or three names that come up: Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Some of that has to do with popularity, but there is also some truth to the fact that iconic heroes like Iron Man and Green Arrow don’t have a great list of memorable, interesting villains. Even Superman and Thor only have about half dozen baddies that can be considered “really good”. My hope is that now, with the success of the TV series, “The Flash” will be one of those names that everyone brings up when talking about a hero with an awesome collection of villains. Today I’m going to be talking about my favorite Flash villain, and one of my favorite bad guys in any comic series.

Captain Cold

Captain Cold

Leonard Snart was little more than a common criminal before reading an article that theorized a cyclotron could possibly slow down The Flash, the supehero defender of Leonard’s hometown of Central City. Knowing that his chosen career path is going to put him at odds with the Scarlet Speedster, he creates a “cold gun” using the cyclotron, dons a blue parka and begins his career as Captain Cold. He becomes the most persistent adversary of The Flash, although the rivalry is not one based in hatred. Snart is not an insane killer; he’s a thief who wants to live life comfortably. He believes the world owes him a good living and if his skills make him a top notch thief, then he’s only doing his job. Cold doesn’t believe in killing civilians or police officers, and really wouldn’t even kill Flash. All he cares about is “The Score”.

Well, The Score and his teammates. Snart is the leader of a group of thieves who call themselves “The Rogues”. They don’t consider themselves to be super villains since they have no plans of world domination and aren’t homicidal lunatics. They share Cold’s ideals of stealing money, living comfortably and not hurting anyone unless they absolutely have to. The Rogues also share a common theme of being normal humans with impressive technological weapons: Heatwave’s flamethrowers, Weather Wizard’s wand that controls the weather, Mirror Master’s insane mirror technology. They are friends and co-workers, and in many ways, a family.


Flash’s Perfect Nemesis

Barry Allen was introduced to the world in DC’s Showcase #4 and Leonard Snart debuted eight months and four issues later in Showcase #8 (June 1957). Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Cold was really the perfect enemy for the Flash. Barry Allen was about speed and kinetic movement; ice is slow and generally immovable. Barry had the bright red and yellow costume, so Cold had the softer white and blue costume; they just look good fighting each other. But while Captain Cold was in many ways the polar opposite of Flash (sorry, I couldn’t resist), they share something important in common; they are softer, more kid friendly characters with a code of ethics. And that isn’t a bad thing; if anything, it helps gives Flash comics a unique identity in the comic book world.

Barry is one of the nicest superheroes around, as far away from a brooding anti-hero as one could get. Similarly, Snart is really just a regular guy who happens to like stealing stuff. He’s not a psychotic killer like you would read in a Batman comic. He’s not a power-obsessed megalomaniac that you would find in a Superman comic. He’s a street level criminal who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, battling a hero that is essentially a cop with super speed. They are perfectly suited to each other. So it really isn’t surprising that Captain Cold has managed to follow Flash wherever he goes, from the Superfriends cartoon to the 1990’s TV show to the CW’s take on the character.

Revenge of the Rogues

Modern Takes

I haven’t gotten around to watching The Flash yet, though I intend on buying it as soon as it released on Blu-Ray. Luckily, everything I have seen and read about Wentworth Millar’s portrayal of Captain Cold makes me happy. The glasses are there, the parka is there, the cold gun looks awesome, and Millar comes across as very charismatic in the clips I’ve seen. He’s obviously impressed enough people in charge because he’s going to be in Legends of Tomorrow as a reluctant good guy. It seems like the perfect mix of being faithful to the comics while still presenting a believable character that a more casual audience can appreciate.

My real introduction to Captain Cold was unsurprisingly in The New 52 relaunch, where Leonard was re imagined as meta-human. He essentially kept all of personality and backstory, but his cold gun was turned into ice powers that were more powerful than Cold had ever been. It was later revealed to be the result of experimentation that fused the powers of the Rogues’ weapons to their bodies, and I was happy with the change. Mostly because it helped differentiate Cold from Mr. Freeze, the Batman supervillain who also has a cold gun and who Snart often gets mistaken for. But I was also happy when Snart lost his powers and got his gun back; he was one of the main characters in Forever Evil, one of my favorite recent books, and is currently a member of the Justice League, which works better than I could have imagined.

Leonard Snart

Why Do I Like Captain Cold?

When it comes to villains, my favorites are ones that are either highly entertaining (The Joker, Doctor Doom) or the ones whose motives I can understand and may even be justified (Magneto, Sinestro). Captain Cold qualifies for both of those criteria, but there is also something unique about him that I connect with. He’s honestly just as easy to relate to as The Flash. I don’t relate to psychotic murderers, would-be conquerors, or mindless monsters. But Captain Cold is just a regular guy with some admirable traits and some major flaws. His belief that stealing is just another career option is certainly warped, but aside from that, he’s just a guy that believes in going to work, doing the best he can, and making his way through life without hurting anyone else. That’s not too far from how I live my life.

Snart is proof that you don’t have to be evil to be a villain. And that’s, if you’ll pardon the impression, very, very cool.


Superhero Spotlight – The Flash (Barry Allen)

The idea of an ultra-fast superhero named “The Flash” was first introduced to comic book readers in 1940 in Flash Comics #1, created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert. Jay Garrick inhaled “hard water vapors” to get his powers and began fighting crime as one of many popular superheroes of the era. After World War II the superhero genre took a sharp decline in popularity and Garrick’s last adventures in a starring role came in 1951. But the idea of The Flash was too good not to run with. In 1956 DC Comics created a second character with the powers and the name, but with a brand new costume, secret identity and backstory that would transform The Flash into one of DC’s most popular and enduring characters.

Barry Allen (The Flash)


The Comic Book Origin

Barry Allen was a forensic scientist whose life to a dramatic change when he was struck by lightning and doused in the chemicals in his lab. Surviving the accident that should have killed him, Barry soon learns that he has been gifted with super speed, becoming the Fastest Man Alive. Using his powers, he defends his hometown of Central City as their resident costumed hero, fighting everyone from petty criminals like The Rogues to Gorilla Grodd, a hyper-intelligent gorilla with psychic powers. Barry also had many adventures through time and dimensions, using his powers and a device called the Cosmic Treadmill to travel backwards and forward in time. And of course, The Flash would also be a founding and iconic member of the Justice League.

Flash’s personal life was different from many superheroes of the time. He was one of the first heroes who didn’t keep his life hidden from his parents and the first to tell his love interest Iris West of his identity. While this occasionally lead to tragedy when Barry’s most vindictive enemies decided to harm him emotionally (usually Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash), Barry and Iris were mostly a happy couple. They married and Iris would even bear his children. Sadly, Barry would not live to see them, as he nobly sacrificed himself to defeat the Anti-Monitor in the climactic chapter of Crisis on Infinite Earths.


The Real Life Origin

Barry Allen was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino (pictured above), two of DC’s most imaginative creators of the era. Carmine’s dynamic art brought the Flash to life, truly showcasing the movement that the character was supposed to have, while Kanigher very nearly created the Silver Age of Comics by making Barry’s stories so heavily based in science fiction and helping define a new generation of superheroes. Barry Allen debuted in Showcase #4 in October of 1956 and was a staple of DC’s line-up for three decades before he was essentially killed off in George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s game-changing Crisis On Infinite Earths story.

The keyword, of course, is essentially. While Barry was absent from comics, The Flash legacy continued as Barry’s nephew and teenage sidekick Wally West took up Barry’s mantle, becoming the definitive Flash for a new generation of comic book readers. However, after twenty three years writers Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns decided to bring Barry Allen back to DC Comics. Using a loophole that Wolfman intentionally put into Barry’s “death”, they had him escape the void he had driven the Anti-Monitor into; Barry soon became the company’s premiere Flash once again.


Always Moving Forward

Barry Allen ended up playing a central role in another event that redefined DC’s universe. In a story called The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry went back in time to prevent his mother from being killed. Writer Geoff Johns had created this extra level of tragedy in order to further flesh out Barry’s personality, since he came from a time where characterization wasn’t as important to DC comics as the plot. This story gave Johns a chance to define Barry as somebody who is always moving forward, showing that we can’t spend our lives regretting what we couldn’t change, but we have to keep looking to the future and how we can affect it.

Given that he was written out of comics for thirty years, it’s odd to think that Barry Allen is now more popular than ever. His relaunched series was consistently one of the best comics for the first two years of DC’s The New 52 relaunch, with stunning art and excellent storytelling that introduced Barry to a new generation of comic book fans. And even non-comic readers are familiar with Barry Allen again thanks to a positively received television adaptation that spun out of the already successful Arrow TV show.


Why Barry Allen Is My Flash

Wally West was The Flash when I was growing up, but he was never a character I particularly gravitated to. The Wally I knew was from the television show Justice League and was always making jokes and was rarely ever serious. He was a valuable part of the team, but not a character I enjoyed on his own. When I read comics with Wally as Kid Flash, I grew to dislike him even more, as he was always complaining about being a super hero and even when he took Barry’s mantle he just seemed to whine about not living up to Barry’s legacy. So I didn’t have a high opinion of The Flash when I really got into comics with DC’s relaunch in 2011.

Barry Allen pretty much changed all of that. I enjoyed that he was a scientist, someone who used his brain to solve problems and not just his powers. I liked how shy and awkward he was around everybody and came to realize that he was just a genuinely nice guy. I can’t picture Barry ever being a jerk to anyone, and that is always endearing. Over time I came to realize that he was the DC character I related to most. Superman and Wonder Woman inspired me, Green Lantern and Batman captured my imagination, but I genuinely felt an emotional connection to Barry as if he were me when I read him. Flash has gone from being a character I didn’t care about to one of my favorites.

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